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Velvet Lounge’s spirit lives on at Patchogue’s Plaza Cinema and its ‘Blue Velvet’ lounge

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Long Islanders feeling blue over the Velvet Lounge’s demise have a new night spot to grab a drink and soak in up-and-coming performers.

The Plaza Cinema and Media Arts Center now hosts live entertainment to compliment its film events. The theater’s new manager, Rick Eberle, has teamed with Maxwell Peters, the promoter and audio engineer for the Velvet Lounge, to host Tuesday evening open mic nights at the Plaza Cinema.

Eberle, who among other credentials, booked and managed The Downtown in Farmingdale, often performed at the open mics Peters frequently hosted at East Setauket’s Velvet Lounge, which closed down in February after serving as a nucleus of artistic expression and local music for two decades.

“I’ve been coming to Max’s events for a number of years and he really impressed me with what he’s been able to do,” Eberle said. “He has really created a scene.”

Recruiting the engineer and scene curator for his new live entertainment experience was a no brainer for Eberle. Throw in the fact that the Plaza Cinema’s bar is dubbed the “Blue Velvet” lounge, and the venture seemed destined.

“When I took the job, I walk in I’m like ‘Wait a minute, the lounge is called the Blue Velvet?'” Eberle said. “I called Max: I’m like ‘Dude check this out, I know the Velvet just stopped and everybody was torn up about it. My new place is called the Blue Velvet Lounge.’ He’s like ‘Come on!'”

“I thought it was hilarious,” Peters said of the coincidence. “Obviously, it’s not the same place, but it’s cool because it’s a continuation of a certain vibe that we’re trying to get together.”

As for the loss of the Velvet Lounge, Peters has mixed feelings.

“I’m the kind of person where I am constantly just trying to move forward,” he said. “Did it make me sad that it closed? Of course. Did it stink that it closed? Of course. Did we lose something? Yes we did. But you know the way things are, one door closes another one opens.

“I’m going to be a little corny and say home is where the heart is,” he added. “Home is where all the people come and this is one of the homes now.”

A new sit-down vibe

Anyone who frequents local music venues knows Peters for creating a “sceneless scene,” which he ultimately dubbed the long-running showcase he hosts half a mile away at 89 North Music Venue. The bohemian Velvet Lounge was also known for its enigmatic quality that welcomed unassuming introspective singer-songwriters and bracelet-and-choker-clad punks alike.

Now, Peters and Eberle alike are discovering how to infuse their local scene street cred and live music venue experience into a movie theater setting. The audience sits in the theater seats and watches acts perform in front of theater’s screen, which provides a mood-setting backdrop for their performance.

“Here with the theater aspect, I feel like anything sitting down is a little bit more artistic than standing up,” Peters said. “Stand up time is kind of party time. And we’ve got the visuals as well, so I really do feel there’s a certain aesthetic that this place has that a lot of other places don’t.”

On the roster May 3, the Plaza Cinema’s first Blue Velvet Lounge open mic, was Arahmus Brown. While the up-and-comer said he and his band’s performances tend to be lively affairs, he enjoyed the adjustment, a shift akin to an “MTV Unplugged” performance, he said.

“This venue is super cool, it’s chill,” Brown said. “I like the fact that it has like a movie theater scene, but at the same time you’re really watching your friends be the movie.

“The thing about this cozy set is that I get to take my music and strip it down and play like an acoustic set,” he continued. “And then when I play it live in another space, where it involves more energy, it involves me playing electric guitar, 808s and Hip Hop stuff, then its like it’s a whole other thing. That’s what I love about music, because sometimes it gets too stale playing the same thing over and over again. reimagining your own stuff is kind of like very interesting if there’s layers to your creativity.”

The audience also seemed to respond well to the new type of venue.

“It’s like a vintage cute first date place, like for jazzy music, it has class,” Lexi Furia, a local artist and musician in the crowd, said. “This is cute, you can actually enjoy the acts and their performances rather than have so much distraction and running around. You can actually absorb and sit and watch, like an opera.”

In addition to open mic nights, Eberle hopes to host comedy and trivia events at the Plaza Cinema going forward.

“Patchogue’s become a really burgeoning city, and so we’re adding to the element,” Eberle said. “There’s a lot of people that follow [Peters] and his open mics, and so we knew that it was going to be possible to work. I honestly think that when word gets out this is going to be unbelievable.”